I still haven’t played Kirby Star Allies. Although I’ve been a fan of the Nintendo character for a while, the previous mainline Kirby game felt more like me. When Nintendo revealed Kirby and the Forgotten Land, the first thing that struck me was that it felt like a big turnoff for the series. Traditional side-scrolling gameplay has been ditched in favor of a 3D style, while adding new gameplay elements. After spending some time playing the first world of Kirby and the Forgotten LandI’m happy to say this sounds like a much needed breath of fresh air.
In Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Kirby must try to save the Waddle Dees who have been kidnapped and scattered in each area. To do this, Kirby can use his traditional copy abilities, sucking in enemies, and earning classic bonuses along the way. Early on, we see familiar abilities including Sword, Bomb, and Freeze, and they work exactly as longtime Kirby fans would expect. After saving Waddle Dees at each stage, the characters move to a new area called Waddle Dee Town. The more Waddle Dees saved, the larger the area expands, giving players access to fun extras, like a “Gotcha” machine filled with in-game trophies. weapons, where Kirby can get upgrades for his copy abilities.
In addition to traditional copy capabilities, forgotten land also introduced the new Mouthful mode. Essentially, players will discover new things that Kirby can suck up, but can’t swallow. Even before the title screen appears, the game introduces the first element of Mouthful mode: a car. When Kirby puts his mouth around himself, he can use it to drive or crush his enemies. Driving the Kirby car is absolutely ridiculous, but it’s also a lot of fun. Certain Mouthful abilities give Kirby offensive powers, such as a soda maker that lets him spit cans at enemies. Others, like storage lockers and stairs, just give Kirby an interesting way to find hidden clues or pathways in the environment. These are certainly less exciting, but they add a fun element to exploration.
Cars, soda machines, and storage lockers might not seem like the sort of thing you’d normally find on Planet Popstar, but they fit in well with forgotten land and the levels found in the first world, Natural Plains. While forgotten land seems pretty light on history, it’s quite obvious that Natural Plains was once inhabited by humans, or a human-like race that hasn’t been around for some time. Old machinery is juxtaposed against lush vegetation, and it almost looks like something you’d expect from The last of us. Despite the post-apocalyptic setting, the presentation is every bit as cheerful as you’d expect from a traditional Kirby game, with vibrant colors and a bouncy soundtrack. The joyful atmosphere often made me think of Super Mario 3D Worldand I say that as a big compliment.
Kirby games have never been known for their challenge, but forgotten land actually offers two difficulty levels: Wild Mode and Spring-Breeze Mode. Wild Mode hasn’t thrown anything too hard at me so far, but it feels a little more challenging, and I’m interested to see if it escalates in later worlds. If so, players can still switch between the two modes in the pause menu. Speaking of the pause menu, players can also switch between single-player and co-op easily. In co-op, a second player can take on the role of Bandana Waddle Dee. This Waddle Dee uses a spear to attack, as opposed to Kirby’s transformation abilities; it sparked a bit of envy from my daughter, but the two-player mode is a fun inclusion, regardless.
In my limited time with Kirby and the Forgotten Land, I am already very impressed. It feels like a big step forward for the series, offering a fresh perspective, more to do, and a slightly higher level of challenge for those who want it. But even with all the new options, it still feels jam-packed with all the elements Kirby fans have come to love over the years. The gameplay is fun, the graphics pop out of the screen, and it’s a joy to play. When all is said and done, I don’t know if Kirby and the Forgotten Land will rank with my personal favorite series entries, but I can’t wait to see more of what the game has to offer.
Kirby fans can find out for themselves when Kirby and the Forgotten Land releases March 25, exclusively on Nintendo Switch.